Friday, December 16, 2022

F ³: Adventures in Fun

This is a photograph of the 1970 Mazda EX-005 concept car.

This image came into my life via Twitter, shared by a witty observer who added their own description.

every morning yr worm gf gets in and scoots away to her busytown job

If that makes your eyeballs itch, try this:

Every morning your worm girlfriend gets in and scoots away to her Busytown job.

Ah, yes. Busytown. As a lifelong Richard Scarry fan I could immediately envision this scene in my mind’s eye. Not the girlfriend, maybe, but the obvious inspiration:

Image of illustration by Richard Scarry

Here you see Lowly Worm (no reflection on his social status, I’m sure) out and about in a vehicle which does bear a striking resemblance to that Mazda concept car. While that car was controlled by a joystick, I’m finding myself wondering exactly how Lowly Worm…uh…steered his.

It never occurred to me until now, of course. As a child I was enchanted by Scarry’s colorful and engaging world. I knew that animals didn’t wear clothes or live in human-style houses. I enjoyed the quirky imagination and attention to detail in his drawings. Today his work seems pretty ordinary. When it debuted it was a whole new world. 

I think that the initial freshness of it has been diminished both by how Scarry’s books and subsequent Busytown-related products saturated the market, and also by how much it was imitated. But I still love Lowly Worm. That’s probably why the tweet about the Mazda resonated with me. 

What struck me about the Mazda concept vehicle, aside from its size, is that it looks fun. Would I want to take it on the highway? Probably not. Around the neighborhood? It’s tempting.

Another sight that might be right out of Busytown are these fruit-shaped structures.

They’re bus stops. In Japan.  (Home to that Mazda concept car, as well.) At first glance they look like they’d be right at home in Busytown, don’t they?

Would people be more willing to take the bus if we had bus stops like this? I wonder.

From time to time I’ve seen examples of ways to make public spaces fun, such as the piano staircase seen in this YouTube video. 

The Fun Theory 1 - - Piano Staircase Initiative, funded by Volkswagen

I think people like the concept of infusing public spaces with fun as long as it’s in theory. At least, that’s been my experience in Columbia/HoCo. When something as benign as a community amphitheater is mocked and derided as being as outlandish as Disney World and as garish as the Los Vegas strip, it makes you doubt exactly how much fun they think cities are allowed to be. 

Human beings need fun. We need experiences that engage our imagination, that encourage us to play. These moments refresh us. They are restorative. They may make us more open to coming up with new ideas or more willing to interact with new people. Most of all they cultivate well-being.

Some days you need to take a break from all the “must-do” items on your list and just allow yourself to have fun. Where will your imagination take you?


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